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What's It Really Like on the Street?

November 01, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

People Are Nasty

Lori Connelly is a veteran patrol officer with the Phoenix Police Department. But Connelly admits that when she joined the force, she was a bit naïve. "I had led a pretty sheltered life," she says.

During her rookie year, Connelly pulled over a motorist for a minor traffic violation. She soon realized that the man's passenger was a male prostitute.

Connelly searched the car. And reaching into the glove compartment, she withdrew a tube of personal lubricant. The top was off, and there was visible residue from its insertion.

"I wear gloves whenever I do any search now," Connelly says. "People are nastier than I ever imagined."

People Deserve Your Respect

There's nothing wrong with being sure of yourself and your abilities, but you also need to respect the dignity of the people you serve and even the people you arrest.

Consider what happened to Rick Gallia, a retired Hayward, Calif., officer, the executive director of the Law Enforcement Safety Foundation, and the CEO of The Backup Training Corp.

In 1981, Gallia was a 19-year-old officer beginning his career with the Gustine (Calif.) Police Department. Called to a domestic disturbance, he saw a woman being held in a headlock.

Exigent circumstances allowed Gallia to legally barge into the home without announcement and attempt to arrest the husband. But the man in question was much bigger than Gallia. He grabbed Gallia by the collar and quite literally threw him out of the house.

"Nobody just comes in my door and tells me what they're going to do," the man told Gallia. "I have kids bigger than you, and you need to show some respect."

Gallia understood what the man told him. He wasn't hurt, so he went back up the steps, and knocked on the door. "I told him, 'Sir, I need to come in and take you to jail now.' He told me, 'Come on in.'"

Gallia offers this advice to young officers, "You can't just treat every situation like you're the big, bad police with a giant badge on your shoulder. You have to show people respect."

Of course, there are situations where you have to act like the "big, bad police." But Gallia advises you to do that with respect as well. "You can say even to an uncooperative suspect, 'Sir, I'm trying to take you to jail, and I don't want to resort to other tools.' But if the guy takes a swing at you, then it's on."

You also need to respect people's feelings and empathize with their loss. That's the advice of Sgt. Dean Scoville, a patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

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